Shadow Warrior (PC) Review
Genre: First Person Shooter
- Genuinely hilarious
- Enjoyable to play
- An indie game that feels like it was developed by a big studio
Not so much?
- Swordplay is a little hit-or-miss at times
- Humor is funnier than the original, but still crude
Shadow Warrior is a reimaging of the classic 1997 3D Reams title, where it is okay to bring a knife — er, sword — to a gunfight.
Back in the day… the first-person shooter genre was ruled by iD Software’s Doom and Quake. There were tons of attempts to dethrone the king, but only a handful of development studios were successful in creating fun and inventive games. 3D Realms was one of those studios, who created some uniquely enjoyable games and added a little sense of humor to the genre. Their first quality shooter was Duke Nukem 3D in 1996, based on their popular side-scrolling action platformer series of the same name (minus the 3D, of course). The following year 3D Realms released Shadow Warrior, which featured a lot of ultra-violent action, and tongue-in-cheek humor often times charged with sexual themes — the main character’s name, after all, being Lo Wang.
I remember playing Shadow Warrior back in 1997, but it certainly didn’t leave the same impression that Duke Nukem 3D or Quake did — but it did stick around in my memory. So, that’s gotta count for something, right? I recall the game being overly cheesy at times, and perhaps containing some terrible stereotypes and light racism (is that a thing?), with gameplay and humor that was aimed at the teenage demographic.
I was a little hesitant to try out the new Shadow Warrior, primarily based on how Duke Nukem Forever turned out — being an unfun and unfunny game. But you cannot judge a book — or game — based on past failures, especially when they’re developed and published by completely different studios. Still, the skeptic in me went into this game with low expectations.
Because I had played the original, when it was originally released, I thought I could offer a unique perspective, but I was afraid that the 36-year-old me would find the game to be more annoying and even less funny that the 20-year-old me did with the original.
Boy was I wrong. Not only is the game funny — it’s hilarious!
I can count on one hand, the number of games that have truly made me laugh, and Shadow Warrior is now one of those. Humor in video games seems to be something that a lot of developers attempt to master, but few actually do it well. Shadow Warrior had me laughing my ass off after only a few seconds into the game. Not only is the writing witty, but it’s genuinely funny — in an often crude way, of course. However, the humor wasn’t always going for the low-hanging fruit, although Lo Wang is a pretty obvious gimme.
Shadow Warrior isn’t so much a remake of the original, but more of a reimagining. Lo Wang, rather than being this sort of older, shaolin monk-like asian stereotype, is now younger, drives a car, and is a bit of a modern wiseass.
One things that immediately sets Shadow Warrior apart from other first-person shooters, is the sword play. While I often found slicing guys to feel a bit awkward, like only relying on close-quarter melee attack with the butt of your gun, like in Halo, Call of Duty, and Battlefield, it was kinda cool to slice a guy in half. To help avoid the disadvantage of bringing a knife to a gunfight, the developer added some dodge controls, that will help propel Lo Wang quickly, and at great distances, to make him less of a sitting duck as well as being quick to stab a fool on the other side of the room.
In addition to traditional first-person action elements, Shadow Warrior also includes magic abilities and character power-ups that can be acquired and unlocked as you progress through the game. There are also new weapons to access as well.
There are also some elements to Shadow Warrior that have an old-school feel, especially the ability to only regain health by grabbing med kits. But don’t worry, by the end of the first mission, you will learn how to be able to regain some, but not all, of your health through magic.
I recommend playing Shadow Warrior on a better-than-average system. While it ran fine on my middle-of-the-road business-class laptop with an i5 processor and an integrated video card, it did tend to get a little choppy when the action on-screen got heavy.
Shadow Warrior is developed by Flying Wild Hog, and published by Devolver Digital, whose previous titles include the Serious Sam series, Hotline Miami, as well as the re-release of the classic versions of Duke Nukem 3D and Shadow Warrior.
Flying Wild Hog is an independent studio, but the production and quality actually feel like the game was developed by a big studio, with a huge staff. I was amazed to learn that. Just goes to show you, independent games aren’t always just experimental artsy titles. :)
I’m not sure if this is just a Steam perk, but if you purchase Shadow Warrior on Steam, and you own Saints Row IV (also on Steam, I’m assuming), you will automatically unlock the “Penetrator” weapon, a giant purple dildo bat, as an alternative in-game katana in Shadow Warrior.
Shadow Warrior is available through services like Steam. Steam currently has Shadow Warrior for $40. A special edition version is also currently priced at $50, and includes additional weapons that pay homage to games like Serious Sam 3 and Hotline Miami, as well as a digital art book, and soundtrack.